A group of educators, parents, elected officials and spent Friday night talking about racially charged incidents in the classrooms and on the playgrounds of San Diego County schools.
The hosting organization, Diversity and Equity in Education, is a multi-county coalition of people who have come together to discuss racist incidents with the end goal of creating a racially inclusive and equitable school environment.
It was the first of a series of meetings aimed at laying a pathway toward eliminating structural racism.
“There is a level of diversity that exists in San Diego County which is a beautiful thing, but yet we don’t embrace it,” said Dahlia Balmir, parent to a student in the San Dieguito Union High School District.
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The conversation took on heavy topics, like race, diversity and equity in education, and a long list of alleged incidents across county school districts.
“Our Muslim students being called terrorists. Chants of 'Build the wall' at sport events,” said Balmir. “We are hearing about swastikas. We are hearing about the "N" word in the bathrooms, the lack of support to students with special needs and disability."
One of the moderators, Angelle Maua with the Gender Phluid Collective, spoke as well about treatment of transgender students.
“She was being bullied and names were being yelled out to her," Maua said describing an incident on campus.
The group also discussed the need for diversity.
“Some school districts where there are only one or two teachers of color in the whole county. We need to make sure we are intentional about diversity and equity in hiring within school districts,” said moderator Yusef Miller, with North County Equity Justice Coalition.
A retired public school teacher, Marlene, discussed critical race theory.
“To not understand that critical race theory is just critical thinking on racism and we should not be afraid to clarify that to teachers, to parents, to coaches and sports,” said Marlene.
Former San Diego Unified School District parent, Doris Bittar is with the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
“When people of color are unsafe, everyone’s unsafe. Everyone. Whether you’re white or Christian, or whatever you are. We’re all unsafe,” said Bittar.
The group plans to an action plan and pass it on to state assembly members and the San Diego County Board of Education.
Some action items they discussed included creating Race and Equity Committees within the San Diego County Office of Education and CIF, the governing body for high school sports; a commitment to recruitment and retention of minority teachers and faculty; ethnic studies for all high school students and race/equity seminars for student organizations.
Equity In Education said they analyzed more than 800 incidents mentioned in the media in 2018 and surveyed K-12 educators.